Fat Chance

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HBR CASE STUDV

Fat Chance
by Bronwyn Fryer and Julia Kirby
Sid has put his hat inthe ring for a client-serving position. He's got the skills andtheknowledgethe problem is, he's also obese. Can his weight be a factor in the decision?

B

ILL HouciAN was three pages deep into his spreadsheet when he felt the thud, thud, thud through the roughhewn floor of the hallway connecting sales and marketing with the desktop publishing group. "Here comes Sid," he thought. The Seattle offices of NMO Financial Services, charmingly situated in a quaint old building on a city wharf, were rather sensitive to the rattle of passing trucks-and to Sid Shawn's 400-pound footsteps. The door to Bill's office was open, so instead of just passing by, the obese man stopped and looked in. "How's it going, Sid?" Bill said. He noticed that Sid's face was a bit moist; he seemed short of breath.

HBR's cases, which are fictional, present common managerial dilemmas and offer concrete solutions Jrom experts. MAV 2005

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HBR CASE STUDY • Fat Chance

"Going great," Sid replied, smiling and giving NMO's VP of sales and marketing a little salute. "Hey, did Terry happen to speak with you?" "Uh, yes," Bill said. "She put your r^sxim^ and everything in the system. I'm supposed to be interviewing candidates over the next month or so." "Terrific," Sid said."Wel], I hope you'll keep me in mind."

his last review he'd made it clear he was ready for something new, so it shouldn't have surprised Bill when Sid applied for the job that had just opened up. Still, when Bill got the e-mail from HR about Sid's interest, he was taken aback. Sid had applied for a consultant relations job - where his success, and not a small portion of his compensation, would depend on impressing the

"Shoot."

"That really fat guy?...You're kidding! How can you even consider it? What kind of impression would he make?" "Sure, Sid," Bill responded, tuming to stare at his computer screen. "I'll keep you posted." He's a good guy. Bill thought, as Sid continued down the corridor. You can't blame him for coming by to help his cause. Or maybe it was the deII tray that had lured Sid down this hallway? A vendor had treated the production group to lunch that day, and there were sandwiches and cookies left over for the rest of the staff. Almost as soon as that notion entered his head. Bill rebuked himself for it. He leaned back and sighed, not happy about the decision he would have to make. A ten-year veteran of NMO and a mainstay of the pensions marketing group, Sid had always been a good, consistent worker. As a product specialist, he was an invaluable resource to the salespeople who called on chief investment officers, treasurers, and others making the decisions about employee retirement benefits for their companies. Sid was also a resource to the consuitant relations managers, who tried to influence the people advising those buyers. At this point, Sid was so steeped in NMO's products that those colleagues had come to depend on him to outline their talking points and pitch books. Amiable and sometimes funny, Sid garnered above-average performance reviews and regular pay raises. But during polished professionals at major benefits consultancies. Of course, he'd impressed them many times before-or his work had while he remained behind the scenes. But now the consultants would encounter Sid face-to-face, and that seemed a different matter.

A Friend Weighs In
Bill pulled his suit jacket from the hanger on his door and took the stairs to his friend Chuck Bell's office on the fourth floor. Chuck, who headed up the 40i(k) sales group, was on the phone, so Bill lingered in the hallway until he heard the conversation end. Then he tapped a knuckle on the doorjamb. "Hey, Bill,"Chuck said."You don't look so good. Something you ate?" "Nah, I just need some fresh air. You wanna take a walk?" Chuck immediately stood up and grabbed his jacket, and they headed for the elevator. A rainstorm...
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